Friday, March 10, 2006

TV regulation is bad regardless of 'threats'

Today, Pay-TV operators lobbied for changes in broadcasting rules in response to the threat from the Internet. In particular, they were concerned about anti-siphoning lists that prevented Pay-TV operators from television sports events. The example of only 3 live events shown in teh recent Winter Olympics is a case in point.

But it is hard to see what this has to do with the Internet. The Internet may attract attention and also compete with television but restrictions that protect free-to-air TV have little to do with that. Instead, it is those restrictions that are the problem. Put simply, those laws give broadcast TV operators veto power. They could television a few hours of Olympics a night and block Pay-TV from televising the rest. Moreover, on-line options such as Google TV were not available to Australian viewers. So much for the threat from the Internet.

So forget basing arguments on potential threats, the argument resonates now: restrictions that give broadcast TV a leg up are not a good idea and have real costs if abused. If programming is not available as a result of them, then those rules are hardly working to provide free options for consumers.

Of course, another possibility would be for Pay-TV operators to offer free channels themselves. They could install boxes for free across Australia and then become a new free broadcasting choice. I guess, however, that the investment costs for that would be prohibitive. But if they are really threatened perhaps it is worth considering.

1 comment:

Fiona said...

Olympic broadcast rights are a different matter entirely from AFL or any other sport. The IOC is extremely strict about who can show what, and when. Even being on pay TV wouldn't loosen many of the restrictions. In the US, Olympic coverage was only on NBC and their cable affiliate, USA network who mostly showed docos, repeats, and some filler footage. It also showed the daily, highly entertaining but somewhat silly recap show, Olympic Ice.

Besides Google Video, I was also unable to watch Olympic videos from Eurosport or NBCOlympics.com due to IOC licensing limitations. I cannot forsee a games being stream on the Internet, except perhaps at cost.

However, I was able to listen to the Eurosport *audio* feed for the duration of the games to hear some events live in their entirety, and of course see pictures at Corbis.com almost instantly, which was wonderful.

Pay TV will never have as much of a reach as US pay TV for a few reasons - cost, alternative entertainment options, and alternatives that were already embedded before the pay TV base was developed. ie - cable started a long time ago in the US where your options might be see a movie or watch TV. By starting in the late 90s, Foxtel etc faced competition from mobile phones, film, music, dance clubs, etc - more competition for entertainment dollar.